Six F-16 Fighter Falcon aircraft pilots assigned to the 480th Fighter Squadron in Spangdahlem, Germany and support assets were deployed to participate in joint and combined air training during Exercise African Lion at Ben Guerir air base in Morocco earlier this month.
African Lion is the largest US Department of Defence exercise in Africa. This year marked the first time the US Air Force participated in the US Marine Corps led exercise. The US Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve airmen also trained. They flew with Royal Moroccan Air Force F-16 pilots. German Armed Forces, British Armed Forces, Netherlands, Belgium, Senegal and Tunisia also participated.
“The Royal Moroccan Air Force has been gracious during this important engagement,” said Colonel Pierre Oury, air exercise training director. “The Royal Moroccan Air Force is one of our most reliable partners on the African continent, so we want to make sure to inter-operate with them and share our techniques, tactics, procedures and also experiences. There’s a lot of learning going on, on both sides.”
Training included first-time Royal Moroccan air force in-flight air refuelling with US tankers and emergency landing barrier training. These training opportunities enhance inter-operability between the two units, in turn, gaining a better understanding of each other’s operations.
“US and Royal Moroccan Air Forces have a long standing friendship and an exercise like this reinforces those mutual bonds,” said US Air Force Major Dave Atkinson, air exercise training detachment commander. “The opportunity to fly together allows us to demonstrate we can operate concurrently in the same airspace and work together for a common goal.”
Oury explained how pilots communicated in the airspace seamlessly during flying missions.
“We have new digital link capabilities being used where Moroccan and US jets will be able to see each other on their scopes. Air to ground sorties have also been added to the training mission where in times past only air to air was accomplished.”
The week-long training was loaded with practical operations training geared to challenge the two militaries and streamline the allies’ flight processes.
“Exercise African Lion showcases how we can work jointly together, which is most important. We make sure all systems are working and we’re speaking the same language, not English but the same aviation and tactical language. This exercise really helps that process.” Atkinson said.
The exercise finished with a joint banquet of both nations’ personnel celebrating the goals reached during the week-long training.
Oury shared his thoughts on a good ending note.
“True mission success will be once we reach all of our training objectives with our partners and we have a safe redeployment back home.”